As we celebrate the 30th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, I find myself thinking about all the amazing female athletes who inspire us, how far we’ve come since Title IX and how far we still have to go, and about the multitude of benefits that girls and women gain from playing sports. But I also think a lot about how much the explosion of women and girls playing sports has changed the views of boys and men. Perhaps that’s because I have an eight-year-old boy whose sports heroes are female athletes. It doesn’t hurt that his mom is a Title IX lawyer and huge basketball fan (and former high school player) who has taken him to Washington Mystics and University of Maryland women’s basketball games since he was a baby.
I provided the exposure but he did the rest, from memorizing all the players’ names to keeping track of the teams’ records to deepening his understanding of the sport. When he plays basketball at home and pretends to be a player, it’s a female player (and mom or dad is the coach of that women’s team). At school, he has helped educate his teachers and peers about women’s sports, encouraged girls to play basketball at recess, and even convinced his second grade teacher last year not to give any math homework if the Maryland women advanced to the Final Four (which they did, Go Terps!).
I love that he loves women’s sports because I think it helps him see women as strong and formidable and not just focus on their appearance as our culture invites us to do. It helps him see them as equal to men. And seeing female athletes through his eyes gives me hope for the future.